Thursday 19 January 2017

First Days in Majuro

Greetings -

I am sure you are shocked to see another email from us already - hopefully this one won't take so long to read as my last two epistles!

We arrived in Majuro just before sunset on Sunday evening, and Max went ashore to clear us in on Monday while the kids and I did a "Saloon Blitz" to restore the main living spaces to some semblance of order after the passage. By the time Max came back, the kids had cleared the benches, swept the floors, polished the table and were working on their Life of Fred Math at either end of the (almost never) folded-open table. [Aside - I have to say that this is what I thought Homeschooling would be like every day, and after 4 1/2 years, I can count on one hand the number of days like this that I have experienced! It was lovely! I have slowly learned that learning takes place in many shapes and forms, and it doesn't always require a swept floor or a big table.]

With the big table opened, Victoria was able to lay out all the squares of her afghan, which she had spent some time that morning taking apart. She has decided that a diamond pattern will be much more satisfactory than stripes, so now she has stacks of squares and she is beginning again to stitch them together. She is pretty cheerful about re-working her project, and even made a crocheted plastic basket in which to keep her long yarn that she will use to sew her blocks together!

The big table again proved useful a couple of days later when the 13-year-old boy from the one other kid boat came over to visit. With more open space than normal in the saloon, it was easy to suggest playing a board game. He played Risk with Victoria and Johnathan for a couple of hours, and they made plans for him to come back and finish the game sometime soon. Johnathan actually thanked me after the boy went home that I had encouraged them to play board games :)

The main reason many people gravitate towards Majuro is to take advantage of USPS service and use the internet to deal with the backlog of administration and logistics that builds up while cruising more remote locations. I was shocked to discover when Max came back from clearing in that those people have been out of luck for the last month! Majuro experienced an internet outage in late December, and it is still not rectified. High on our to-do list was submitting a couple of passport applications, so we ended up doing a 'remote Google search' for the contact info for our Canadian High Commission (ie we asked my brother to send it to us via email!) He also gallantly sent the forms to our Iridium GO! email address, but the file was so big that it would have taken over three hours to download, and our connection never lasts more than a few minutes! After walking all over Majuro the next day and finding that no one had a working fax machine, I discovered that the local health clinic (where I was thrilled to practice yoga) had working email, and the Director was kind enough to let the Canadian High Commission send the forms to her for printing. Such is the exotic life we lead!

The most unusual thing I have done this week is to try out my skill as a barber/hair dresser. We have had a kit aboard since last April, but this was the first time I had been brave enough to use it. We started out on the side deck, but with wind and blasting sun, we soon moved into the cockpit, using an upside down 5 Gallon bucket as a chair. Victoria had me cut of 8" to donate, Johnathan got a trim (although he was tempted by my clippers to get a buzz cut), and Max got "#3 on the sides and scissors on the top". Benjamin is in the 'before' picture, but he changed his mind and had a nap instead. He is still sporting the 'curly tangles' look, but hopefully, the sun will come out and I will get him into an 'after' picture before too long... I had a lot of fun trying out a new skill (slightly less scary than kite boarding!) and was pleased that no one looked too terrible when we were finished. Even a few days later, I keep smiling when I look at them, because I am so happy that they are pleased with their result, and because they look so good!

Tuesday nights in Majuro are Cruiser Dinner nights: the local yachties go to one of four restaurants for a meal together. After being on the ground for only 48 hrs, I had a sense of culture shock when I saw the size of the group. We haven't seen that many cruisers in one place in months! It was a nice introduction to the wider community, and we are now card-carrying members of the Meico Beach (Marshall Islands) Yacht Club.

Even without Internet, Majuro is a place where we will be able to do a good deal of re-provisioning. Walking into one of the grocery or hardware stores is like walking into a little piece of North America. The brands are the same as at home (Triscuits! Ziplocs! Doritos! Chocolate chips!) and many of the staff even have American accents :) Without the credit card machines working, it has taken great restraint to spend only the money in my purse as I see familiar items for the first time. I have taken to marking down the things I am drooling over in my notebook so that I can go back later in the week if they really do turn out to be 'needs' vice 'wants' :)

Now that we have been here a few days, we are getting the hang of travelling in Majuro: there is one main road, and dozens of taxies spend all day making their slow way from one end to the other and back again, waiting for someone to flag them down. Much like the I-Kiribati bus system, for 75 cents/person, riders will be taken where they need to go (or close - Max asked for Customs, and he got delivered to the Parliament next door!) If their destination is beyond the main town, the fare rises to $2 for a trip that could take upwards of a half hour. After our yoga yesterday (followed by green smoothies and stirfry in the Wellness Center cafeteria) Victoria and I spent the rest of the day driving and walking up and down the town doing errands. Johnathan and I did the same today to fill our propane tanks (taxi to the Energy office, pay your money, take another taxi to the "gas field", fill your tanks, then flag a third taxi to go home!)

While I have been gallivanting around town, Max has been working flat out, checking items off on his maintenance list. Sometimes he has to add them so he can check them off, as happened this morning: he turned on the 'network' switch at the chart table so we could see wind speed during a squall, and just as quickly, it flipped itself back off again. Troubleshooting wiring that snaked from the saloon to the aft cabin to the galley hadn't been on his to-do list for the morning, but it immediately became his top item. Thankfully, the main network seems fine, and the fish finder wiring (which had already been blowing fuses, and for which we have a new plug coming) can now wait for another day.

We have been eating well in Majuro - we enjoyed the last of the mahi mahi last night (soaked in limes from the Plantation in Taveuni, then cooked in coconut milk, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and onions and served with rice) and a pork loin tonight. The pork loin was originally destined for our freezer rather than our fridge, but after I bought it, I remembered the ex-pat advice from Tuvalu not to buy square chickens. I figured that the same advice applied to pork, and given the rather rectilinear shape of the narrow loin roast, and its nearly thawed state when I got home from the grocery store, I decided that it had better be eaten immediately. We haven't had roast meat and mashed potatoes on board for months, so it was a very popular meal!!

We have a squally/rainy/windy system sitting on top of us at the moment (ICTZ - once we got the network back, I saw winds up to 27 kts this afternoon). I understand it is going to stay put for a couple of weeks, so I am not sure when we will be able to head for the outer islands and the sunshine... in the meantime, at least it is not snow that we have to shovel!

Love to all,

At 2016-12-26 1:54 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 07°06.15'N 171°22.41'E
At 2016-12-26 8:20 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 07°06.16'N 171°22.41'E

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Tuesday 17 January 2017

Happy New Year with other families in Tarawa ... then on to the Marshall Islands!

Greetings and Happy New Year!!

I hope you have been enjoying all the photos Max has patiently uploaded. Kiribati has 3G internet service, but our coverage and connection have sometimes been hit and miss. We set sail on Thursday afternoon for Majuro, Marshall Islands, and arrived on Sunday, so it seems about time to write and give you the narrative version of our second visit to Tarawa :)

We arrived back from Butaritari on the Friday before New Year's Eve. The passage was an uneventful motorboat trip on flat seas with mostly no wind, but the anchoring marked a milestone: Johnathan and Max anchored by themselves! It was mid-morning when we entered the lagoon. I was sleeping off-watch when Johnathan brought Benjamin to me, and told me that we would be at the anchorage in about 15 minutes; this usually means that I have that much time to be on deck, equipped with shoes, gloves, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, and paired Bluetooth headsets, ready to anchor. I settled Benjamin to sleep as quickly as I could, and came up on deck -- just as Max was shutting down the engine at the Parliament anchorage ! Max had put the anchor on the bottom and Johnathan had done his usual job of setting the anchor-watch button, then they switched places and Max reversed the engine while Johnathan eased out the chain with the deck-mounted electric switch. I was pretty surprised and pretty proud to find myself out of work!

Our ultimate destination was a point a few miles further up the lagoon that we had scouted on the satellite imagery as being off the Tabon Te Kee Kee resort, but we waited until we had the afternoon sun behind us to move. As with many anchorages in Kiribati, the lagoon was very flat and shallow nearby, with 750m of bare reef at low tide. This meant anchoring quite a distance out, and being prepared to accommodate our schedule to the tides. The water was high enough when we arrived that Max and I could go ashore to check out how and where we would leave the dinghy, and to confirm that they sold cold drinks with a sunset view: they did :)

Loaded down with dry bags as if we were moving ashore for a week, we met our friends the following afternoon. It was such fun to reconnect with the mum and kids who did the U-turn to meet us when we were first in Tarawa, and to meet her husband, a friend of theirs, and another Australian family with two kids. Forming spur-of-the-moment friendships with like-minded souls like these is definitely one of the highlights of cruising for me.

After getting to know one another over a potluck of snacks and drinks (and sharing many funny stories of provisioning these treats in Kiribati and other exotic locations) we enjoyed a simple, but tasty, meal of local foods put on by the resort: two kinds of fish, chicken legs, taro, squash, rice, and a plate of cucumbers and tomatoes. With three buias (thatched huts) ashore and two on stilts out over the water, Tabon Te Kee Kee was a lovely spot at which to spend New Year's Eve. We were the only guests that evening, so we felt very spoiled to have a private resort to ourselves!! Since we left to go cruising, we have celebrated NYE in Mexico (twice), Canada, New Zealand, and now Kiribati. Once again, the combination of friends, family, food, and room for kids to run and play proved magic in creating an enjoyable and memorable evening.

Since the forecast was benign, and the rising mid-tide was not until 3am, we decided to treat ourselves to a rare overnight ashore in one of the buias. I decided that it was just as well that our friends had the over-water ones, as I didn't want Benjamin to fall overboard through any crack between the floor and the wall! Our buia consisted of a thatched roof and half-walls with a three-foot-high wooden platform taking up most of the space. On the platform, the staff had placed several mattresses side by side and enclosed them with mosquito netting. It was quite lovely, and it marked the first night that we left Fluenta unattended at anchor since we moved aboard in 2012.

A side benefit of being in Fiji for Diwali earlier this year was that we were able to stock up on fireworks before we left. With the bare flats because of the low tide in the late evening, Max was able to go well away from the tinder-dry buias to put on our show. We had some small sparklers and some larger proper fireworks that went of high in the sky with an enormous sound. When it was finished, we could hear exclamations from other spectators across the bay :) Other than our fireworks, our group was pretty quiet and low-key, but our neighbours across the small channel partied well into the wee hours !

The following morning, we were treated to real coffee by our well-prepared friends. They brought their own pot from home, and made up the coffee in the resort kitchen. Yum! A lazy morning and a tasty brunch (including pancakes topped with a special coconut syrup distilled from coconut sap in the same way as we make Maple Syrup in Canada) were followed by just the right amount of exertion: they had brought enough bikes for the kids (and one prize-worthy Dad) to do a little trek along the dirt road up the island. The rest of us formed a walking party and sauntered along a little later. Victoria elected to enjoy the peace and quiet at the resort, while Johnathan rode a bike that looked bigger than he was. I enjoyed walking through traditional villages (very similar to ones we might see on the outer islands) after the congestion and paved roads of South Tarawa.

With the afternoon high tide came time to say good bye. We headed back to Fluenta in our now-floating dinghy, while our fiends took an open I-Kiribati boat across the channel to South Tarawa, where they had parked their cars, and then drove down the one paved road to their homes.

By the time our weather window for the Marshall Islands materialized, we ended up staying in Tarawa a total of another week and a half, dividing our time between socializing with our friends (our house, their house) and taking in some of the cultural and historic sights.

We invited both families to come to Fluenta for swimming and dinner, but when they very politely declined our offer of swimming in the (as it turned out very polluted) Tarawa lagoon, we didn't even bother to put the spinnaker pole up ! We stuck with dinner, Lego, card games, and movies, sharing a trevally that their NYE friend had kindly dropped off at Fluenta following their sport-fishing expedition the previous day. In addition to fish and rice, we had home made bread (for once, not made aboard Fluenta!) and a salad with lettuce, home-made croutons, and hard-boiled eggs: since we hadn't seen fresh eggs since Fiji this was a particular delicacy! The supposedly fresh refrigerated eggs that I bought before Christmas were the worst eggs I had ever sampled. Each family had a boy and a girl, so by the end of the evening, we had the boys watching action movies in the saloon while the girls elected to enjoy the Sound of Music in the aft cabin. Even the dads and the moms drifted into separate conversations in the cockpit.

We got a bit of a surprise the first time we went ashore after our return to the Parliament anchorage: in the week we had been away, the rules had changed, and yachties could no longer use their dock! We pleaded our case and got a one-day exception, but we chose to move once more before our next shore excursion. We anchored off the 'Chatterbox' Cafe, which was owned by the same family as the Tabon Te Kee Kee, and through whom we arranged our WWII Relics tour. They are hoping to make some improvements to encourage more cruisers to visit; a welcome change would be the potential installation of a dingy dock, because even though this anchorage is one of the few with a channel through the reef to the shore, the dinghy still ends up drying out for several hours each tide, and it was challenging to secure it to the available hard points for an entire day ashore. We sure missed simplicity and security of the all-tide access at the Parliament dock!!

We ended up with what was effectively a private WWII tour in an air conditioned van, that included a stop to visit Sister Margaret, a Catholic nun who had been in Kiribati for over 50 years. To put the rest of our day into perspective, the WWII relics were barely ten years old when she arrived in 1955! Her office had been entrusted with holding the Declaration of Occupation, posted by the Japanese when they arrived in 1941, as well as a copy of the Notice of Surrender from 1943.

Sister Margaret also gave us an overview of the Catholic mission to Kiribati, which began in the early 1890's. One of the three founding priests was alive in Kiribati there when she arrived as a young nun. The nuns and priests operated schools on most of the islands in the Gilbert group. As I listened to her speak, I couldn't help but wonder if there had been similar damaging stories between the churches and the I-Kiribati as there had been at the church-run residential schools in Canada; however, she made no mention of such a history, and told a very positive story of caring people leaving their home countries as young adults and spending the rest of their lives reaching out to minister to and educate the I-Kiribati. Sister Margaret was well into her 80's, and one nun lived here until the age of 99 years and eight months! A key difference between the church-run schools in Kiribati and Canada was that there seemed to be less of a focus on 'educating' the culture out of the students: the schools were located in the villages, and almost all the children went home to their own families at night. They did not seem to have the model of forced evacuation to a foreign residential experience that we had in Canada. I noticed during the Christmas service at Butaritari that there was still a strong I-Kiribati flavour to the processions, singing, and dancing, even after over 100 years of missionary influence.

The rest of the morning was a little less emotionally murky. Our tour guide (who, unlike many I-Kiribati we met, spoke perfect English after spending 18 months in Oklahoma as a young Mormon missionary) took us to a variety of WWII sites. Johnathan, Victoria, and Max examined the mechanisms of the large ocean-facing cannons, where the Japanese had assumed the US Navy would line up in their sights. Instead, they approached from the lagoon side, where the Japanese did not have the same level of defences. We visited the various beaches where marines had had to walk significant distance under Japanese machine-gun and cannon fire because the tide was too low for their landing craft to deliver them to shore. We walked and drove past numerous Japanese bunkers, most of which are now being used as basements or latrines. As dutiful tourists, we asked about taking pictures, and our guide assured us that the villagers liked having their pictures taken as they went about their daily lives, living with a normal wood and thatch buia upstairs and a WWII bunker downstairs. We felt a bit self-conscious, but we snapped images for posterity anyway. It was sobering to stand in front of the two-story Japanese headquarters, very near the spot where their Commander was killed as they attempted to evacuate their HQ. The I-Kiribati seem to have made their emotional peace with the Japanese, and there was a photo of this man's daughter and grand daughter visiting Tarawa in Sister Margaret's office. The Japanese have since built the causeway which joins the main city of Betio with the next island in the chain. One of our last stops was to see the monument erected in memory of the almost 3500 US Marines and Navy personnel who were killed or wounded in the three days of fighting. The message to the I-Kiribati on the same monument to "Enjoy your Independence and Guard it Well", in memory of the gallantry of those who fought and died, are words that all communities are wise to remember.

Everywhere we went, whether in our tour van or by ourselves, we were quickly surrounded by children who were unbearably curious to see the I-Matang. We had an especially funny time the one morning we went ashore for diesel (unfortunately, I didn't bring the camera). We pulled up on the beach, and Max took the Jerry cans across the road to the fuel station, while I stayed with the dinghy. Almost immediately, I had six little boys (in various states of dress/undress ... clothing seems to be very optional for children when swimming in the lagoon) come running over to look at the dinghy. I was pretty sure they had never seen anything like it. They kept touching the tubes and laughing. One of the older boys (probably about Johnathan's age) seemed to be trying to figure how how it all worked so he could explain it to the others: he pointed out the various filling points, handles, etc and explained each of them. As usual, they were shooed away when the men from the station came with our Jerry cans, telling them off for 'bothering' us. What the grownups rarely realize is that we love these smiling no-language interactions with their children!

We spent a couple of enjoyable hours in the little museum and cultural centre in Bikenibeu; however, I was wishing that a few more of their signs were written in English as well as I-Kiribati! On the other hand, it was nice to visit a Center that was more focused on meeting the needs of its local visitors than of English-speaking tourists. Ironically, my favourite part of the visit was when I found a commemorative book which showed photos of relics and artifacts collected by Captain Davis of the HMS Royalist when he claimed the Gilbert group for Queen Victoria in 1892: it felt like a virtual tour of the museum as I looked at the photos, as they were of items similar to the ones in the room, but all the descriptions were also in English :)

We had only met the Australian Navy family on New Year's Eve, but in a true measure of friendship, they invited us to bring our laundry and our shower gear when the three families reunited at their house for lunch and swimming in their pool on Saturday - they had electricity, air conditioning, and plenty of fresh water. Six loads later, I could hardly find words to express my gratitude as I inhaled the scent of clean sheets and towels, that hadn't seen the inside of a washing machine since Fiji, after they were dried in the breeze on their wide airy deck! To top off the gesture of friendship, they made hamburgers for everyone, even though we all knew how hard it was to get red meat replenished in Kiribati. Their son was celebrating his birthday, so we had a lovely afternoon of food, games, and socializing. For our other friends, it was the day before their flight back to Australia and 'regular life' in Tasmania. This short period for our three families of overlapping in Kiribati, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, strikes me as a microcosm of the cruising friendships are formed quickly and enjoyed intensely, making the most of the available time that we have together.

We spent our last few days in Tarawa back at the Tabon Te Kee Kee anchorage, enjoying the peacefulness of the area, the chance to do some long-awaited yoga, making water (hoping that since we were near an opening in the reef, the water on the incoming/high tide would be cleaner than elsewhere in the lagoon), and enjoying ongoing visits with the owner, who was always considering new ideas to help cruisers enjoy Kiribati.

The highlight of this short period was our visit to the nearby giant clam farm. All we knew was that we should walk about ten minutes along a path by the water from where we left our dingy and we would get to a place that raised clams, with an excited ex-pat owner (and former boat builder), who, if he was home, would tell us something about them, and it would be worth the visit. What we received was an in-depth description of the life cycle of the giant clams, a description of the four kinds which are indigenous to Kiribati, and a detailed tour from tank to tank so we could see the changes in the clams from the time they were too small to see until they were big enough to go to the outer island villages (for six months' care and custody in the lagoon waters), until they were finally big enough to export. We learned about the CITES treaty which states that only farmed exotic species may be sold (ie no wild clams can be sold) and we learned that the biggest giant clams are probably 200 years old. Most of the pigs we saw in the villages were drinking out of giant half-clam shells that would have been this age!

Once we had learned about the clams and seen the sea cucumbers that they also farm for export, we went to the other side of the facility to learn about boat building. They use a fast-growing Fijian hardwood (similar to kauri from NZ with which we were already familiar) for the struts and then several layers of marine plywood and epoxy for the walls. Both big kids were fascinated by the clam tour and very interested in the boats (Benjamin was asleep, which was just as well given the tools and machinery we were stepping around). Victoria spent some time examining the way that the forms were made so that she could potentially copy the technique one day. It was unfortunate that we were leaving the anchorage the next day, as they were just starting to form the shape of a motor-catamaran, which would have been taking shape on each visit if we had been able to come back again. The owner employs a number of women who have graduated from the local technical college, so it was interesting to see them in very non-traditional I-Kiribati roles! In another small-world connection, the same little shelled creatures that Victoria helped to collect in 2014 in Penrhyn (for use in necklaces and jewelry) are used (alive) by the clam farm to clean the clam boards in the tanks. Since the 2008 financial crash they have been diversifying into other wood-construction projects, and are currently building 'kit schools' for the I-Kiribati government, as well as boats for their own (delivery) purposes. I loved introducing Johnathan and Victoria to someone who has experienced adversity and found creative ways to carry on: after the collapse of the pleasure boating market in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, they branched out and started doing other projects that would use the skills of their staff; he also works part of each month on a Fisheries project in Somalia. Throughout these hard years, they have continued to employ all their staff !

For once, we actually left on the day that we told our weather forecaster (Bob McDavitt) that we were going to! We have often decided at the last minute that another 24 hours would make a big difference to our preparedness, the weather, our health, or some other factor, and we have delayed a day, but this time, we left as planned, on Thursday 12 January [leaving on Friday 13th seemed to pushing our luck].

Our weather on the 72-hour passage was a little bit of everything. We started with fantastic winds of 12-15 kts, flying along like a proper cutter on a close reach with our genoa and our staysail, reaching boat speeds of 8+ kts, especially in the relatively calm waters in the lee of Tarawa and Abiang atolls. That night, we enjoyed the brilliance of the full moon with hardly a cloud in the sky (and no squalls, yeah!) By the second day, the winds had dropped and shifted, so we just kept the boat moving at 3-4 kts, trending more and more off-track to the east, but at least still under sail. Sometime in the middle of the night, with a boat speed dropping below 2 kts, Max finally started the engine, and we motored well into the next day. There followed a mixed-up day of light winds, turbulent skies, and rainy squalls (as we sailed along, I mentally described the sky to myself as something a sculptural artist might have created with grey and black clay - it twirled and tumbled in every direction up and across the sky - gone was the brightness offered by the full moon the night before). The squalls built in intensity as the night wore on, and we saw short bursts of winds into the 20's, but thankfully we didn't see the dramatic lightning of previous passages. We always reef the main at night, but throughout the evening/midnight watches, we found ourselves constantly changing the genoa, furling for squalls and then bringing out the full sail just to make progress in the lulls.

The forecast had been for steady strong winds that would let us sail the entire way, but the mathematical models have trouble with the irregularity of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ - our old friend from the 2014 crossing to the Marquesas), and so we had what we have since found out to be a typical maddening passage with many hours of motoring :) As if to make up for the middle of the trip, the last day was quite lovely: the sun came out, the wind was a strong enough to sail, and we did a circuit of the atoll, under sail until the approach to the pass (which is on the north edge about 13 nm from the town). We even caught a mahi mahi that Victoria filleted on the back deck as we wallowed deep downwind in a following sea. At this point, we got the Marshall Islands welcome of a squall with pelting rain and winds again into the 20's. Thank goodness for our rain enclosure! We simply furled the main a few minutes early, closed the clear rain panels, headed away from the lagoon, and waited it out. Before long, the sunshine was back, I was on the bow chatting to Max over my headset, and we transited the pass (despite a strong current) without issue.

I began this letter with the milestone of Johnathan helping to anchor the boat; I will finish it with the milestone of Victoria taking her own watch :) She announced that she wanted the dawn watch, and she proactively made sure she was in bed early each evening so she could greet us with a cheery "Hi Mom" or "Hi Dad" when we woke her at her chosen time of 4am. At first we thought she would just keep us company in the long pre-dawn hours, but we soon realized that she was capable (and alert) enough to watch for wind shifts, traffic, squalls, and other issues on her own. We stayed in the cockpit with her, but it was lovely to sleep on the bench, comfortable in the knowledge that she would shake us when she needed to. I am sure that Johnathan will not be far behind in requesting his own watch (perhaps during daylight or during the evening when our night owl is most awake), as even now, we are quite comfortable informally leaving either of them 'watching for traffic' while we go downstairs for a few minutes. Transitioning from a 1-in-2 watch rotation to 1-in-3 or even 1-in-4 will make our longer passages much more enjoyable (and sustainable)! Benjamin is a great help, but it will be a while before he is standing watches on his own :)

Majuro is the gathering ground for the cruisers who have 'gone North' from the Islands for cyclone season, as well as many who stayed once they got here. As we arrived, with sunset approaching on Sunday evening, it felt strange but good to look around and see a multitude of yachts gently secured to their moorings, after so many months in only our own company or sharing anchorages with a small handful of boats. We were warmly welcomed by SV SEAL, who host an informative website on Majuro and the Marshall Islands, and who were kind enough to come in their dinghy to show us to our mooring, even helping us to secure the bow lines (much easier to do from a dinghy than by hanging by the waist from the lifelines with a boat hook!)

Majuro will be home for a few days while we sort out some logistics and arrange our permits to visit the outer islands, then we will head further north for the rest of the season. Theoretically, this means that we are heading out of the rain and squalls of the ITCZ and into the sunshine :)

Much love to all,

At 2016-12-26 9:19 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 07°06.15'N 171°22.41'E
At 2016-12-26 9:28 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 07°06.15'N 171°22.41'E

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Wednesday 11 January 2017

Battle of Tarawa, Cultural Museum and Giant Clams

Throughout Tarawa there are relics of the Battle of Tarawa from World War II.  The battle was the first US amphibious assault against against a fortified position.  The US Marines were successful but a great cost of lives over 76 hours of battle. Lots of details about the battle here (with a high level description) or here (with much more detail).

In addition to the battlefield tour we also visit the Cultural Museum and Kiri Craft (a boatbuilder and giant clam farm).

One of the guns (37 mm ?) facing towards Red 2 Beach (also where we were anchored in December).  The conditions around the relics make you appreciate the European World War I and II battlefields that we have had a chance to visit over the years).

The original Japanese declaration on their seizing of Tarawa 10 Dec 1941 (just a few days after Pearl Harbour).  The declaration is under the care of Sister Margret.

The 84 years young Sister Margret from the Catholic Mission in Tarawa.  She has been here since 1954 and also the mission's archivist.

One of the Japanese 8" guns facing to sea from Black Beach.  Ironically it was provided to the Japanese by the British during the Japan-Russia war.

Johnathan on one of the 8" guns.

Damage to the guns.

One of the smaller guns - on Black Beach but facing back towards Red Beach on the lagoon side.

Recycling - some of the I-Kiribati have adapted the bunkers to their homes.

High tide so hard to see but this Sherman tank is visible at low tide.

Red Beach 2 - the wreck is not from World War II but rather just the last set of westerlies to come through Tarawa.
One of the many bunkers on Black Beach.

The local kids came out to see us wherever we went.

Johnathan in front of the Japanese Command Bunker.  The Japanese Commander was killed as he and his staff evacuated the bunker.

Benjamin on the other hand thought that the best of the trip was playing in the air conditioned van.

Map of Betio - Red Beaches are where the main landings occurred and face into  the lagoon (from Wikipedia)

Checking out the traditional armour and weapons at the Kiribati Cultural Museum.
Mike breeds and grows giant clams for the aquarium market.  It is an amazing process and involves the outer islands thereby them giving them the islanders a cash crop to manage.  Here Victoria is seeing the few month old clams.

Mike is actually a boatbuilder by trade.  Here he is showing the kids how to loft from offset tables and the naval architect's drawings.  With the downturn in the boat building market they are making kit form schools with their local labour force.  When not working in Kiribati, he works in Somalia with the UN helping with the development of the Somali fishing boats.  He very graciously gave us a lot of his time and patiently answered our many questions.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Tabon Te Kee Kee New Year's Eve

We had intended to go to another atoll for New Year's Eve but we received an invite from some nice Australian ex-pat families to go to the Ta Bonte Kee Kee resort with them in North Tarawa

Low tide - Fluenta in the distance behind on the "rooms", overwater buias.

The resort as seen from Fluenta at high tide (at springs)

At the resort.

Ready to party.

Sunset.  Our rhib on stern and bow anchor in the foreground.  If you look closely you can see a fisherman going by with a net.

Tasty supper of chicken and fish.
We brought some serious fireworks we bought in Fiji post Diwali.  I am the small figure to the left of the fireworks out on the mud flats.
Out for a hike the next day while the six kids and one dad went on bikes.

The village near the resort.

The morning after photo.

Monday 9 January 2017

Butaritari in Photos - Adventures with Ari and Family

Our first few trips ashore in Butaritari were nice but hampered by our lack of I-Kiribati language and the limited English of many of the I-Kiribati.   This all changed when we met Ari, the Education Coordinator for Butaritari and Makin, and his family.  Liz wrote about our visit here and the pictures are below:

Ari and some of the children

Victoria showing the ladies crocheting.

One of the nice buia in Ari's compound.

Off to find fruit with Ari and one of his sons.

Ari took us to this pretty chapel at the eastern end of the island.

Ari and Liz at the chapel

Christmas Eve we receive a sneak preview of the dancing as his children show what they have been practicing for weeks

Victoria and one of Ari's daughters preparing fish.

The rope swing is always a hit with the kids.

Johnathan gets to try the traditional canoe.

Dinner onboard Fluenta

And playing with sticks with the boys.

Sunday 8 January 2017

Christmas in Butartari - Dancing and Singing

Liz has wrote extensively about our Christmas ashore here.  Quite a Christmas with normal Fluenta traditions and an eight hour expedition ashore cross-legged in the Maneaba for Christmas mass and the dancing and singing competition.

Preparing for Christmas
Stockings !

His very own lego !

Not a great picture but it gives an idea of the size of the Maneaba and how many people were there.

Benjamin thought it was a good time for a nap.

Choir competition

Choir Competition

Dancing competition

Dancing Competition

The doll Victoria made for the new baby in the village

The new baby.

The nativity set that Victoria made.

Johnathan reading one of his Christmas presents.  "Cabin at Singing River" by Chris Czajkowski (who used to be my babysitter and lived on our property for awhile before she moved further north in BC)
Victoria testing out her hammock from Granny and Grandpa.